The Cardinals are riding a two-game winning streak but insist they will not be overconfident facing 1-8 Jacksonville.
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- When Frostee Rucker studies the Jacksonville Jaguars, he does not see a league laughingstock like so many others do.
While Jacksonville won its first game in nine tries on Sunday and is still considered the worst team in the NFL, the Cardinals' defensive end knows how quickly things can change.
He played for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, a team which also began the year 0-8. That group endured the same jokes and catcalls, but turned it around with a record of 4-3-1 over the second half of the season.
"You don't take anyone lightly in this league," Rucker said. "This is my eighth year. I've known from experience. I've been on that team
on the receiving end of starting off 0-8 when I was with Cincinnati, and we finished and got some wins. You go in there and work your tail off trying to get that 'W' and come back home."
Every week, it seems, there is an upset or two in the NFL landscape that forces a double-take. On Sunday it was the Rams traveling to Indianapolis and leaving with a 38-8 win. The Cardinals are road favorites this week, but they know not too get comfortable.
"Any given Sunday," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "One-and-eight. Eight-and-one. It doesn't matter."
Jacksonville relied on its defense to do the heavy lifting in the win over Tennessee. It forced four turnovers and a safety, and cornerback Will Blackmon iced the game with a 21-yard fumble return for a score with 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars have a first-year coach in former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew said the victory helped validate the philosophy brought in by the new staff.
"No one really gave up or anything like that, but we just kept fighting and doing everything the coaches told us about getting better, keep competing and those things," Jones-Drew said. "Obviously, 0-8, you're the bottom of the league and all the jokes and all that stuff. It's tough, but the way we fought, the way we got better (was encouraging)."
Despite the win, the numbers are not pretty for the Jaguars. They've scored a league-low 115 points on the season and given up a league-high 291. All eight of their losses have come by double digits, and they have scored just 11 combined points in three home games this year (they had a fourth designated home game against the 49ers but it was played in London).
By all accounts, this is a game the Cardinals should win. If they do, they could wake up on Monday with the same record as reigning NFC champion San Francisco, which has a tough road game against the Saints this week. Pick up a victory, and the postseason will be a clear possibility with six games remaining.
"This is a playoff game for us," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "We're sitting at 5-4 right now. You look at the teams right now that are in the hunt for a playoff spot, it's tight. It's a tight race. We can't afford to give up any game."
Coach Bruce Arians was quick to praise the Jaguars, complimenting the team's defensive performance last week and the job Bradley's done as coach. There will be a lot of attention on Arians next week when he faces his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, but he said he's not looking ahead, and if the Cardinals lose their focus, they will get beat.
"I don't think, for us right now, we should be overconfident against anyone," Arians said. "I know this, that Maurice Jones-Drew has embarrassed a lot of teams over the years and a lot of players. You don't want to get on that highlight film when he trucks you and runs you over, so you better bring your big-boy pants when you play against Jacksonville."